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Jason Mejeur

Playbook Building: What’s Your Identity?

By | Coaches Resources, Football

This article was written by Offensive Coordinator and Assistant Coach for Fairmont High School (MN), Brian Wille, founder of Intentionally Grounded. In this article, Brian speaks on his new approach to the design of his playbook, and how he was able to design it around his personnel and their offensive attributes.

 


 

Playbook Building: What’s Your Identity?

A coach’s playbook can be his pride and joy, it is a collection and reflection of all of his vast knowledge of the game of football….or at least we as coaches think so anyway. It is this stigma that can often take a beautiful thing and turn it into a complete mess.

A playbook is not a test of your coaching intellect or your man/womanhood, it is an overview of the toolbox and system you plan on employing with your team. It serves as the map to assist you in your quest for success.

However, if the map cannot be deciphered by the reader, it is rendered useless. This is often the case with many playbooks. They are too complicated, too diverse, and too dense. I know this because that is how my playbooks used to look.

What are the dangers of such a playbook and how do you go about fixing it?

This article examines both questions.

The Dangers

We are all guilty of it. We turn on the television on a Saturday or Sunday, watch a college/pro game, and see a great play that we become instantly enamored by. It looks so shiny, it looks so successful, and it looks like it would work perfectly within your offense!

You install this play (among others) into your game plan for the week and then come Friday night, reality sets in. The plays don’t work. Why? Because they don’t fit within what you try to do on offense. They’re an anomaly. They don’t complement any of your other offensive plays and your players struggle to see the symmetry.

This is the reality of what many coaches around the nation deal with at every level. I am guilty of this too! While all of the plays we want to install have some merit and could potentially succeed in a game, the sustained success will rarely follow.

Sustained offensive success comes from an offensive system that runs a calculated set of plays that all complement one another. A hallmark of such success can be seen in a team that looks like they have 10-15 different run plays and 25 plus different pass plays when in reality they have three to four run plays and seven or eight pass concepts that they run a variety of different ways.

It wasn’t until this past offseason that I truly understood how much an offensive identity and system truly impacted our offensive production.

I had heard the same message that I am preaching to you now at various clinics, but when I got the opportunity to put my own playbook together, I continued to commit the same sin over and over by adding plays that didn’t match what we do.

We would spend so much time working on a set of plays and we would run them once or twice during the course of the game.

I looked back at all the valuable practice time we lost last year due to installing new, non-complementary plays within our offense and it resulted in disappointment.

Instead of getting better at the plays we pride ourselves on (our identity as an offense), I wanted to expand the quantity of the plays we could run. Did a few of the plays we installed result in some nice gains? Absolutely, but it didn’t make us a better offense overall.

As a result, I went into the offseason looking to refine our playbook and make our offense, and our players, more efficient.

How to Fix it?

I came across articles by coaches Phil Vogt and Slade Singleton that opened my eyes. Both preached simplicity and a limited playbook. After reviewing their materials (such as Slade’s Rule of 4), I realized how much deadweight our playbook carried.

Instead of minoring in everything, we needed to establish an identity to major in. This realization came full-circle for me when I was looking at our up-tempo or no-huddle package. I was struggling all season to implement the system to our offense because I could never figure out enough signals, or enough space on our wristbands, to include everything I wanted to include in our fast tempo packages.

I kept thinking, “Oh this play would be good….so would this play…..I don’t want to be left without this play…..” and I ended up keeping all of the plays like some sort of hoarder.

The reality of the situation is that by the time our players had to search on their wristband for the correct play, we weren’t even playing fast anymore. This is 100% my fault. The knowledge and guidance of Coach Vogt and Coach Singleton showed me that the old adage of “less is more” is absolutely a fact.

If we want to play fast, if we want to take our offense to the next level, then we need to figure out what it is we want our kids to know and then become experts in it.

Everything else we do, should complement these things and make them better.

The three keys to developing and implementing a successful offensive identify (in my mind) include:

1. No more than three to four different run schemes, quick game concepts, drop-back concepts, RPOs, and screens (i.e. Rule of 4 to some extent). This allows you to major in what plays are important to you and you can build in the plays that complement those base-plays best.

2. Matching your personnel with your system. If you cannot match the strengths of your players to your playbook, you will severely limit your overall potential. Don’t be afraid to change your system to accommodate a special or unique set of athletes that come through your program. Most high schools cannot recruit players to fit a specific system so you must be flexible and ready to adapt.

3. Run what you know. If you are going to teach your players to be successful, you must first know what you are talking about. Find an offense that makes sense to you. By nature, I’ve always been a Spread Offense and, most recently, an Air Raid guy. I never realized it until I read the book The Perfect Pass.

I had never been familiar with all of the Air Raid concepts; but as I learned more about them and compared them to the routes we were already running, it all began to make perfect sense to me. I understand the why behind the system and the how for teaching it. That tells me that the offense is something I can run and implement. If you cannot understand the why or the how then it shouldn’t be your system.

Don’t let pride get in the way of progress. Simplify, simplify, simplify; the rest will take care of itself.

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Connect with Brian on Twitter

Checklist For Offensive Linemen

By | Coaches Resources, Football

This article was written by Brian Wille, OC and Assistant Coach for Fairmont HS in Minnesota, founder of Intentionally Grounded. In his recent transition into coaching offensive line, he’s found that there are 5 things that offensive linemen must have to be successful at the position.

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Checklist for Offensive Linemen

This past season was the first year that I was able to coach the offensive line. Prior to this year, I’d predominantly worked with quarterbacks and wide receivers.  I enjoyed coaching both positions very much, but as I transitioned into the role of offensive coordinator, I knew to coach the offensive line was a must. This is where everything gets started and I wanted to ensure that things up front were solidified in the manner we wanted in order to experience the offense we designed.

Let me say, it was quite the learning process!

I spent the summer preparing by reading every piece of offensive line literature I could get my hands on from Rick Trickett to Larry Manfull. This, coupled with input from our veteran linemen and ex-coaches I networked with, prepared me to teach the offensive line at an effective level….or at least I thought. There is so much to learn and I am still learning each and every day!  However, one of the biggest lessons that I learned this past season wasn’t about x and o’s or technique. It was about personnel. I learned about the qualities that I need to have in order for an offensive lineman to play in our system. I’ve since included these requirements in a lineman contract that I am going to ask all of my linemen to sign. This article examines the top five characteristics I look for in an offensive lineman and what led me to these preferences.

Checklist

*Note: I’ve had one year of coaching offensive line experience. Most of the opinions I’ve generated were largely based on this past season, but my mentors have also influenced the qualities I look for in an offensive lineman.  This is a combination of both perspectives.*

1. Pad Level

The most important skill or trait that any offensive lineman who plays for us is their pad level.  I don’t care how strong you are or how long of arms you have, the low man wins in the game of football.  It is an undeniable fact and the sooner that our linemen embraces this, the better. Good pad level requires discipline and flexibility to perform consistently.  It becomes exponentially harder when linemen have to block in space, at the second level, or facing oncoming pressure. The best linemen have great pad level throughout; that is the most important thing we look for in all potential starters.

2. Quick Feet

Along with pad level, quick feet are extremely important to us.  I am a believer in the importance of the 6-inch step in any blocking execution.  I am also a huge believer in the concept of “how quickly can you get your second foot firmly in the ground”. I know some coaches are not subscribers to the importance of the second step in the ground theory; but from my brief experiences (and the experiences of those I trust), the linemen who can get their second foot firmly in the ground at a fast rate are the ones who are typically generating movement along the offensive line.  Not only are quick feet important, but maintaining quick feet through contact is also a very desirable quality for our linemen.

3. Great Hands

When I say great hands, I don’t mean the ability to catch the football.  I’m more so referring to good hand placement. I find this to be one of the most underrated aspects of playing the position.  At the beginning of the season, our players were struggling with poor technique and weren’t generating any movement on double-teams or ‘kickouts’. When we looked at the film, hand placement was a huge issue.  It led to defenders sliding off of them, out leveraging them, and pushing them back. Once we corrected the hand placement issues and emphasized aiming points for our hands, we started to see some movement and execution.  We now drill hand placement drills every day!

4. Composure

I have to have a player who can keep their wits about them and keep their mental sanity when playing along with our offensive line.  We know it starts and ends up front in football. If our linemen are losing their composure and are worrying more about things that were out of their control, we are at the mercy of the defense who should be our sole objective and focus.  It is tough enough to handle all of the different stunts, blitzes, and fronts that modern defenses throw at us, why make it more difficult on ourselves by adding distractions? We emphasize remaining composed and looking at things analytically, rather than emotionally when it comes to our performance.

5. Heart

If you don’t want to play along with the offensive line, you probably won’t be very good at it.  You have to love it, you have to want to do it, and you have to be willing to sacrifice personal recognition and accolades for team recognition.  I truly believe that if you have the mindset that you can be an effective lineman and you enjoy working at your craft, you can turn into a serviceable player who works into the rotation.  Point and case: this past season I had an offensive tackle who was all of 6 feet and 160 lbs soaking wet. Going into the season, we assumed that this may be an issue for us and so we tried to create as much depth at the position as possible by getting other players reps.  However, our tackle never bought into the fact that he was undersized or that there was competition all around him. He focused on the task at hand and embraced all of the qualities I have listed above. Unsurprisingly, he was very successful and efficient. He completely shifted my philosophy on what it takes to play on the offensive line and size is not one of the requirements.

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Follow Brian Wille on Twitter!

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5 Stats Your Offense Should Pay Attention To

By | Coaches Resources, Football

This article was written by Joe Daniel with Joe Daniel Football. Coaches like to keep track of any stat they can think of. Here are a few to focus on.

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Key Stats

There are a million stats football coaches can look at. Most of them don’t mean much.

Some coaches are stat junkies. Some coaches don’t care.

Most of us are OK as long as we score more points than the other guy. That is the only stat that really matters.

But there are a few more metrics you can look at. They will help you determine how well your offense is working.

More importantly, looking at these numbers helps you get focused on what you need to improve on.

Turnovers to Possessions

Turning the football over is Public Enemy #1 in any offense. You just can’t do it often and be successful.

Looking at it per possession just helps get a grip on everything.

One game, you turn the ball over 4 times on 12 possessions. The next game, you turn the ball over 3 times on 9 possessions.

You did not get better at holding on to the football. You just had it less to start with. Your turnover to possession ratio is still 1 turnover every 3 possessions. By the way, start collecting your things.

What’s a good ratio? Well, zero turnovers. Just keep working to get the number down.

3rd Down Conversions

Converting on 3rd Down is critical for the offense. And demoralizing for the defense.

You need to coach the importance of 3rd down. Knowing the situation.

Where are the sticks? What yard line to I have to get to?

The difference between having guys who know to stick the ball out or drive forward for that extra yard is huge. You don’t want your QB giving himself up a yard shy of the 1st Down. Or your receiver trying to make that extra juke just before the marker, instead of lunging forward for the extra foot.

It also helps the play caller to be aware. Are you calling your best plays on third down? Or going off the script too often?

Power is consistently our best play in the Pistol Power Offense System. On a 3rd & short, we should be calling it. 3rd & long? Power Pass.

Not calling those plays much in 3rd down situations? We’re probably struggling.

Red Zone Conversions

Points in the Red Zone are critical. Your offensive yardage totals don’t matter if you squander opportunities inside the 20.

Just like on 3rd Down, you have to coach up the importance of the Red Zone. Your players need to turn it up a notch.

Take a look at how often you are converting in the Red Zone. And don’t ignore Field Goals (unless you don’t have a kicker and always go for it).

Yards Gained on 1st Down

2nd & 10 just sucks. It’s the worst.

Sometimes you take a shot on 1st Down and that’s OK. It’s part of the plan. But most of the time, you want a first down play that puts you in position to get the next 1st Down.

This means staying on schedule. 1st & 10. 2nd & 6. 3rd & 3. That’s on schedule.

You need to average 4 yards or more on 1st Down. If it’s not happening, start stressing the importance of 1st Down to your players.

Your play calling has to match this goal, too. If you’re calling 4 Verts or some other low percentage pass play on every 1st Down, you can’t expect to meet the goal.

Yards Gained Against The Blitz

Check out how your offense performs against the blitz. If you are more successful when they blitz, use that as a tool to motivate your kids.

If you struggle against the blitz, tell your guys. You need to work on it.

High School players can be intimidated by a lot of blitzing and movement from the defense. You want to handcuff the defensive coordinator by taking advantage of blitzes.

Compare how your offense performs against a base defense to how they perform against the blitz. If you need more work, put it in the practice schedule.

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How to Find The Leaders on Your Football Team

By | Coaches Resources, Football

This article was written by Joe Daniel with Joe Daniel Football. With the football season drawing near its important to identify which players will be the team leaders. Here’s a few ways to make sure you have the right leaders in place this season. 

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Finding Leaders

Every football coach is looking for leaders. Player leadership is critical for the success of your football team. But how do you find them? How do you know who has the potential to lead your football team?

Some kids are going to have strong personalities. They’ll take over the role whether you want them to do it, or not.

Important point here: Leadership means having Influence. It can be good or bad.

Bad leadership is hard to squash. Sometimes all you can do is cut ties.

Good leaders seem to take a lot more cultivating. Good leadership does not take it’s followers down the easiest path.

Time to find those good leaders. Then you can start to build their skills. You’re going to need this focus, because it’s unlikely you’ll get 50 kids that are qualified for leadership right now.

How do you find them?

You have to let go. Back off, and start putting kids in situations to take over.

This isn’t natural, because football coaches are all about controlling the situation. It’s how we manage to have highly productive practices in way less time than we need.

But you need to do it.

We turned the conditioning portion of practice over to our players recently. It’s interesting to see who leads it, and what they come up with.

There are basically no instructions given, except that it should only take about 5 minutes.

They run hills, or run gassers, or some other type of conditioning that we’ve done in the past.

And you find out who has leadership. Who has influence.

It’s a good way to start this process. Don’t turn over the weight room. It’s highly skilled, and potentially dangerous. Plus we’re on very specific programming.

With a young football team, we may be another season away from turning over some non-contact football work. There is some with with receivers and Quarterbacks doing extra 7 on 7 work on their own, but I don’t know that you learn anything about leadership there. The QB leads it. You’d learn more from who runs the defense.

(there is value here, because you are putting your QB in a leadership role)

Over time, turn some of your light drill work over. Everything should still be supervised. This would be your pre-practice drills, more than anything else.

Find out who your leaders are early on. Then start talking to them.

Don’t force anyone into leadership. You can’t. I’m not in the leaders are born camp, but I do think you have to want to lead in order to learn to be a leader.

When you establish a few leaders on your team, they’ll be examples for future leadership in your program.

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5 Ways For Coaches to Get Players to Buy In

By | Coaches Resources, Football

This article was originally posted by Dan Guttenplan with FNF Coaches. If your players aren’t willing to buy into your program its unlikely there will be much success. Here are a few ways you can get your players to do so. 

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Player Buy In

In order for a coach to get the most out of his scheme and game plan, his players must buy in to his philosophy.

Coaches often say players won’t care how much you know until you show them how much you care. It’s impossible for coaches to fake how much they care, and players are constantly sizing up the coaches to make sure their message comes from a genuine place.

A head coach needs to set the tone for the entire program that his football team is a family. Through good times and bad, the coach will support his players and staff and put them in position to succeed.

Earning player trust can be difficult. Some high school student-athletes are lacking in experience when it comes to male mentors, and they might be slow to welcome one into their lives. A strong player-coach relationship can’t be forced. Take time to foster trust and compassion because the high school years can be difficult to navigate without encountering a share of adversity.

A coach should have an open-door policy and let his players know they can reach out to him regardless of the circumstance. Keep an open line of communication. Welcome the opportunity for players to share their insecurities and struggles. Coaching is about building relationships – not just wins and losses. Work to build relationships with all players – not just the ones that are making highlights on Friday nights. Here are five tips to help you receive buy-in from your players.

Be Consistent

“I think it’s about staying the course and trusting in the process,” said Steve Specht, head football coach at St. Xavier High (Ohio). “We always talk about following the blueprint. It’s just such a fine line between winning and losing, and you have to get kids to believing and following the blueprint.”

Value All Players

“We try to put the kids in the best position, and we try to make sure every kid has a role, whatever that may be,” said Josh Niblett, head coach at Hoover High (Ala). “They’ve got to have a role so they don’t get lost in the program.”

Communicate Clearly

“It’s all communication. If you have good communication, they’re going to talk to you at times where they think you’re going too far or if they want to be pushed,” said Jason Negro, head football coach at St. John Bosco High (Calif.). “Kids want to be driven; they want to be great.”

Prioritize Your Message

“You have to be really clinical with the theme you’re trying to show whenever you’re using video,” said Aaron Calvin, Performance Analyst for the Nike Academy. “Because with too much noise, the boys just get confused, and they leave more confused than when they came into the session.”

Be Accountable

“I’ve never coached a team that won at the end that didn’t have great leadership, where those guys didn’t hold each other accountable,” said Gabe Infante, head football coach at St. Joe’s Prep (Pa.). “Those guys weren’t playing for me. They weren’t playing for their school. They were playing for each other.”

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5 Keys to Creating a Winning Culture

By | Coaches Resources, Football

This article was originally written by Chris Fore on coachfore.org Coach Fore also owns Eight Laces Consulting and provides resources for football coaches across the country. In this article, Chris discussed 5 keys to creating a winning culture among a team. 

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A Winning Culture

If there is one goal of every great coach, it is to develop a winning program.  Who wants to lose right?  I tell kids all of the time, we are together so much, we work so hard, let’s have fun!  And losing isn’t any fun!  So, let’s win.

Here are 5 Keys To Creating A Winning Atmosphere

1.  Have Goals To Aim For

If there is one thing winning leaders will tell you it is to have goals that are measurable and attainable.  Something tangible for your team to work towards.  This will help you to “win the day.”  These goals can be very short term, like a goal for a certain practice, to longer term, like winning the league championship.  Creating goals, both short and long term, will help your team stay focused on working together to achieve something.  This leads to a winning atmosphere, IF you are accomplishing your goals.  Only you know which goals to establish so that you can win them.

2.  Create A Positive Atmosphere Of Teamwork

Is your locker room and football facility a positive place to be around, or a drag to be around?  Do people like working there?  Or is there a cloud of darkness hanging around?  This atmosphere in your locker room and on your field, in your team film time and one on one in your office needs to be positive, not negative.  This all starts with the head coach.  Obviously, there will be times when it’s rough to come to the office, after losses, after key losses, etc.  But overall, your place of work for your team should be positive.  Put up positive sayings, put up positive pictures of your team. Make kids feel welcome by celebrating them.  Get to know the people in your building, the custodians and secretaries so that you can know how they like to be appreciated. Again, this will help to develop a positive atmosphere.

I recently (2 weeks under my belt now) started a job as an Athletic Director at a new school.  One day last week, the Seniors pulled a prank by knocking over EVERY SINGLE white plastic chair which was set up for graduation.  There were 3000 of them!  When I got to work, I checked my mailbox and headed to my office.  You walk through the quad to get there.  I saw the mess, then I saw ALL kinds of people helping to pick them up and reorganize 3000 chairs!  That’s a positive atmosphere of teamwork right there!  It was awesome.  Everyone from the janitors to the principal to the secretaries to the teachers were out there working to make things right.  People putting down their own agendas for the better of the team. What can you do to create this type of positive atmosphere at your building?

3.  Make sure to surround yourself with staff who are all on the same page

If you are trying to move the program in one direction, and there are others on your staff who don’t want to go there, things won’t be positive for very long. So, you either need to realign those guys with your vision, or get rid of them.  If there is one thing I’ve learned in my short 8 years as a head coach, and four years as an Athletic Director, it is to get rid of those who aren’t on the same positive path you are trying to create, and get rid of them quick!  You really can’t do this soon enough if you realize they aren’t on board.  I would sacrifice knowledge for dedication to your cause. Meaning get rid of the veteran coach who isn’t on board, and hire someone with less knowledge who is on board.  This might make all of the difference in the world!

4.  Discipline! Discipline! Discipline!

Winning on the field, in practice and in the office takes a lot of work.  It takes a lot of team work, and a lot of sacrifice.  As the head coach, you must be disciplined in your approach with discipline!  Treat every player the same in regards to the rules of the road!  Don’t let your star player get away with forgetting his practice jersey at home, and then make your third string guard do push ups!  This is negative, and your players will have a negative attitude towards it!  Discipline must be firm, fair and consistent.

5. Have fun!

“Football isn’t fun anymore.”  This was a complaint I heard from some kids and coaches back in my early days of coaching.  At first, I really kicked back against this complaint as the head coach.  Then, I tried to really evaluate what they were saying.  If I want a winning atmosphere, the kids and coaches have got to have fun.  I came to the conclusion that I was “pressing” the team too hard, trying to win to hard.  The fun was gone that season, and I came to agree with the complainers – they were right!  It’s got to be a fun place for the kids, or they’ll be gone.  How do you make football “fun” when it’s so hard, and takes so much work?  Here are some ideas:

– Frosh Talent Show

– Regular pool party to celebrate end of training camp

– Haircut night – everyone shaves their heads at the beginning of the year

– Popsicles after random practices when it’s hot

– Celebrate birthdays! Put the kid in the middle of the team as they circle around him.  Give the kid a football, he puts that on his nose, looks up and spins one time for every year.  (Stole this from Coach Krosschell at Linfield when we worked together.)  The rest of the team counts out loud as he turns.  When they reach his age, he kicks the football.  This is a great one!

– Stay light with your approach, joke around with the kids a bit about things happening on campus.

– Develop personal relationships so that you know what kids will think is fun.

– Have donuts at your Saturday morning film session.

– Give out a fun award each year to the “funny guy” that always makes your team laugh.  Create a competition about this during the year, keep bringing it up.

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6 Ways to Establish a Culture of Leadership

By | Coaches Resources, Football

 This article was originally written by Dan Guttenplan with FNF Coaches. Leadership and accountability can greatly increase the success of a team. Here are a few ways to create an culture of leadership within your team. 

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A Leadership Culture

Establishing a culture of leadership requires more than just naming captains. A coach can start developing leadership characteristics in his youngest players so that when they’re seniors, they’re ready to be mentors and role models.

In just his second season as the Christian Brothers Academy (Syracuse, N.Y.) head coach, Casey Brown led his team to the New York State Final Four and a Section III championship in 2016.

Brown is bullish about establishing a culture – one that he feels translates to success on the field. He recently offered his six tips for establishing a culture of leadership.

Run Youth Camps.

Youth camps have many benefits – not the least of which is youth players getting the opportunity to lean techniques from the high school coaching staff. Another benefit is the way it can establish a culture. Brown brings back former players from college to work the camps, and the youth players get to learn how to lead from their childhood idols.

Teach the Program’s History. “I always believe the current kids can’t understand where they are without learning from the past,” Brown said. The coach tries to engage the CBA alumni as much as possible so they can share their experiences with the current players. That includes talking about CBA’s mission of giving back in the classroom and community.

Develop Accountability. Brown feels that seniors need to “have some skin in the game,” so he gives them opportunities to share their thought process with the coaches. If the seniors feel that they have contributed to the decision-making process, they are more likely to lead younger players down the right path.

Organize Team-Building Activities.

CBA has students from all over upstate New York, so team bonding opportunities can be sporadic in the offseason. Brown will occasionally pull the team together on a weekend for some type of fun competition. “It might not even be football-related,” Brown said. “It could be dodgeball – just some game where they’re competing against each other and getting to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”

Mandatory Study Halls.

Leadership extends from athletics to academics, at least at CBA. Brown has mandatory in-season study halls with peer tutoring four days per week. Most of the CBA seniors take high-level AP courses, and can help younger players with academic support.

Weight Training Partners.

Very few freshmen enter high school with significant strength training experience, so Brown pairs up seniors with younger players. “The leaders are monitoring, mentoring and motivating throughout the offseason,” Brown said. “We’ll set up a system and make sure they’re all together in the same room.”

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Keeping Your Perspective as a Coach

By | Basketball, Coaches Resources, Uncategorized

This article was originally written by Scott Rosberg for FastModel Sports. Scott has been a teacher and coach for the past 30 years and is also the creator of Great Resources for Coaches. This article underlines the importance for coaches to keep things in perspective.

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Keeping Perspective

As coaches we have a variety of responsibilities that we must be aware of, especially when it comes to the kids we coach. One element of our responsibilities is to keep things in perspective. This post discusses the idea of why it is important for coaches to keep our perspective.

A short time ago when I was working out at the fitness center in my town, an older gentleman (70’s?) said to me, “I wish I was as physically fit as you are.” Now understand, I am no specimen of physical fitness – far from it. I look in the mirror and see a somewhat overweight, out-of-shape, 55-year-old guy looking back at me wondering where his physical fitness went. I think of when I was 35 and wonder why I am not that guy still. However, this older gentleman sees me and sees someone who is physically fit. And it hit me right between the eyes (and unfortunately in my too large gut!) – it’s all about perspective.

This man does not know me. He knows his level of fitness. He knows what he is capable of and not capable of. He knows what hurts when he works out. He knows the pain he is in the next day.


Different Realities

But he does not know me. He does not know that every step I take has pain in it due to years of basketball, running, hiking, etc. that has led to three knee surgeries, two hip surgeries, multiple ankle sprains, plantar fasciitis, and a tendon that is coming loose from the bone on the bottom of my right foot. He does not know that I don’t have full extension or rotation in my shoulders due to three rotator cuff surgeries. He does not know that I can’t play basketball anymore (my favorite recreational sport to play) due to all of these ailments. All he knows is he is seeing a guy 15-20 years younger than him who looks like he is in reasonable shape, and he thinks, “I wish I was as physically fit as him.”

I look around the gym and elsewhere and see other people, and I do the same thing this older man did looking at me. We all do. Our perspective skews our reality, but more importantly it skews other people’s realities in our minds. I see the person driving the Mercedes and think, “Must be nice. If I only made the kind of money s/he makes.” Yet, I have no idea how much s/he makes (or even does for a living), and I have no idea how hard or easy of a life s/he has. I just have my perception of what I think his/her reality is, and I make all kinds of assumptions about it, just because of the car s/he drives.

This is how stereotypes of people affect our thinking. We put someone into a certain class of people based on a stereotype of our perspective of what we “think” their life is like. However, we ultimately have no idea what their life is like. We are not them. We can no more understand all that they are going through than they can understand all that we are going through.


Get to Know Your Athletes as More than Just Players

So what does this have to do with teachers, coaches, and athletics? It is critical that coaches understand this concept of perspective. We teach and coach young people. These young people come to us from all walks of life, all kinds of circumstances, with all kinds of positives and negatives happening to them. Some of them are carrying around a lot of heavy baggage, much of which they had no part in creating. They just happened to be born into some tough stuff. Others are carrying around very little baggage, and life has gone fairly smoothly for them. They are fairly happy with their circumstances and the elements surrounding their lives. Most people fall somewhere in between, with varying degrees of baggage.

However, no matter where they fall, we ultimately do not know their situation. For us to project our perspective onto their lives and assume things about them is not fair at all. We must be careful not to make judgments about our kids, their parents, fellow staff members, and anyone else we come in contact with without knowing as much as we can about them and their situation. This requires teachers and coaches to establish positive, open relationships with these people. We must get to know the people who we lead and who we work with.

I cannot just focus on my players as “players.” I must focus on them as people. The more I come to understand them, the better I can serve them. That must be a leader’s guiding force.


It’s About Our Kids, Not Us

Coaches must also understand perspective in another way. We must keep our job and our role in people’s lives in perspective. We cannot take ourselves too seriously. This is not about us; it is about the young people we lead. We must also understand that the vehicle by which we work with them is sport. It is young people playing games. When we take ourselves and our importance in the world too seriously, we lose perspective. This is one of the few times that I consider the phrase, “It’s only a game,” appropriate. The playing of games portion of our jobs is something we need to take less seriously. I am not saying the games, preparing for them, and competing in them are not important. However, I am saying those are not the most important facets of what we do.

However, at the same time I am saying that we must take our jobs and our roles as leaders of young people extremely seriously. We are trying to help young people learn all kinds of things about life while providing them the opportunity to have a positive experience through sport. The life lessons that kids learn from us will inform so much of who they become. That is an extremely important role in our world, and we must take it very seriously. This is where we cannot accept the idea that “It’s only a game.” What we are doing for kids is so much more than a game, and we must treat it with the importance that it deserves.

Be a role model. Be a teacher. Be someone who keeps his or her perspective on what it is that you are doing as a teacher and coach – instilling in children the life lessons necessary for them to go out into the world and live positive, productive lives. Oh yeah, and one more thing – stay in shape, so that when you are 55 and someone older than you thinks you are physically fit, their perspective is not warped. Believe me – your 55-year-old self will thank you!

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What Players Really Think of Using Digital DFOs

By | Coaches Resources

 

This article was written by XandOlabs.com. XandOlabs.com is a top provider in football content at all levels. They dove into the use of digital DFOs and how athletes respond to them. 

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Athletes and DFOs

Last month, we featured a report on the growing trend of high school and small college programs “hiring” a digital director of football operations (DFO) by using the coaching tool,MaxOne. The primary duties of a DFO is to manage the logistics of a football program’s operations–things like scheduling, communication, summer-camp sign ups, texting, emailing, preparing and distributing drills and workouts, gathering materials for coaching meetings, tracking individual players’ workouts and progress, manage off-season leaderboards… and the list goes on. MaxOne is a platform that allows you to do all of these things with ONE login.

In this month’s report, we confirm the power of using digital DFOs by asking student-athletes from three different programs what they think of MaxOne. Coach McKenna of Brooklyn Tech High School, Coach Stadem of Sioux Falls Washington and Coach Swift of Gold Beach High School have made the switch to MaxOne and have been actively using the app for several months–and they are eager to share their success story.

From these conversations, our conclusion came to be:

MaxOne turns smartphones into football coaches, with instant questions and answers right at their fingertips.”

Turning Players’ Smartphones Into Coaches

The reality of how athletes interact with one another and where they spend time taking in information is through their technology and more specifically through their smartphones. The impact technology has in everyday life, but also directly in the coaching and learning experience has seen tremendous growth. It’s time to focus on the future. There’s no better time than the present to start preparing for future success. We asked athletes how MaxOnespeaks their language in terms of technology? And specifically, how does it engage them with football? The athletes believe that MaxOne translates smartphones into football coaches. One player from Sioux Falls Washington High School stated:

“It made access to my assignments and workouts quicker and easier and let me know exactly what was expected by my coach for every workout.”

The ability for Coach Stadem to be a more involved coach has proven to be successful in taking his team into the future of football.

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Athlete Engagement: No More Excuses from Players and Parents

Athlete engagement is a critical concept for all football coaches to understand. Serious football coaches know that committed, self-motivated and enthusiastic athletes train smarter, harder and more consistently than those athletes who lack these qualities. After interviewing several athletes using MaxOne, we’ve found that it has significantly increased engagement within the team dynamic. One of Coach McKenna’s athletes we had the chance to interview stated:

MaxOne reminders make it clear what has to get done and when, it has made it so there is really not an excuse for not knowing.

The ability to set specific reminders with ease has brought Coach McKenna and his athletes onto the same page, allowing them to hold one another accountable.

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Communication: “The Vehicle in Which Culture is Built and Maintained”

Communication is getting more and more difficult for coaches. Yet, for any relationship to be successful, good communication is essential. As a high school coach, you need to be an effective communicator to many people, including players, assistant coaches, school personnel, and parents. That’s why streamlining communication from one familiar place keeps things simple and efficient for everyone in the team environment. The coaches and athletes utilizing MaxOne feel that communication is the vehicle in which our culture is built and maintained, and we could not agree more. One of Coach Stadem’s athletes also agrees as he stated:

“It’s beneficial being able to see announcements in real-time and have everybody on the same page, it’s always clear exactly what is expected of us.”

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Want More Information on “Hiring” a Digital DFO in Your Program?

It can be tough to keep up when it comes to technology and innovation in the sport of Football. Coaches and athletes are always looking for an edge, and new technologies are continuously coming into play. It’s important for coaches to realize this, and to adapt to an ever-changing environment. It’s apparent the impact that MaxOne has had on Coach McKenna, Coach Stadem, and Coach Swift’s programs.

We will continue to work with our partners at MaxOne with the goal to create better coaches, and in turn better athletes and more powerful programs. If you’d like more information on usingMaxOne in your program, contact Drew Zwiers at MaxOne. Drew has been helping many high school coaches this off-season, just like the coaches featured in this report, and he’ll walk you through how you can use MaxOne in your program, too.

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Teaching Defensive Line vs. Tempo

By | Coaches Resources, Football

This article was originally posted by Michael Giancola with FNF Coaches. With the growing  popularity of no-huddle offenses, more defensive lines are facing new challenges. Here are a few ways you can prepare your defensive line to face tempo. 

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Undoubtedly, offenses that run tempo or no-huddle put extreme stress on defensive players and coaches alike.  The no-huddle philosophy is working its way into more and more offenses even if it’s not wholesale.  Some coaches keep it in their repertoire for certain situations to get the defense on its heels.  Regardless, this is something defenses need to account for in some capacity.

Of all the position groups on defense, no-huddle and tempo offenses put a lot of pressure on the defensive line.  Bigger bodies are naturally exposed to a game that is fast paced.  Like anything else in defensive football, this is something that can be accounted for.  Normalizing the tempo, increasing the defensive tempo in practice, having a clear plan for substitutions and simplifying alignments for the defensive line allows them to be comfortable against teams that try to gain the advantage by speeding up the pace of play.

Normalizing tempo

No-huddle and tempo offenses are a daunting task for any defender.  The key is to normalize the speed of play, especially for the defensive line.  Exposing them to tempo early and often is crucial.  Here are a few ways to accomplish this:

  • Crystal Ball Drills. August practice is a long and arduous, especially with the advent of off-season camps and practices.  Crystal ball drills are periods in practice that focus on things players will see in the future.  Taking a ten minute period or two early in the season to expose the defensive line to tempo situations will pay tremendous dividends.  These can be full team drills, as well as defensive line specific drills.
  • Scrimmage against No Huddle/Tempo Teams. If possible, try to schedule at least one scrimmage against a team that utilizes tempo.  The main advantage to this is it exposes your players to tempo offenses while the stakes are low.  Mistakes will inevitably be made, but it’s better to make those mistakes and learn from them in a scrimmage than in a game that matters in the standings.
  • Explain and prepare for the limitations of No Huddle/Tempo Offenses. Teams that are true no huddle and high tempo need to be relatively simple in scheme.  This does not include teams that rush to the line, get lined up, hard count then look to the sideline for a play call or audible.  Teams that do that, while fast, allow defenses to adjust as they adjust.
  • Know what “home base” is. Overcomplicating scheme against a no huddle or tempo offense is a fool’s endeavor.  That doesn’t mean playing base defense all the time is the way to go, but when the bottom begins to drop out the players be comfortable and excel at playing within a simpler scheme.

Increasing the tempo in practice

Effectively increasing the tempo of practice when playing no huddle/tempo teams during the week helps mimic what the defense is going to see come game time.  However, avoid devolving practice to the point where guys are running around like headless chickens.  This will take precise planning on the part of the coaches, and can be achieved a few different ways:

  • Tempo alignment periods. Formation recognition and aligning correctly constitutes a majority of the challenges when playing a fast paced team, and getting the front aligned quickly is of paramount importance.  To reconstruct the speed of the game for the defensive line, have them turn their backs to the line of scrimmage.  Set up an offensive line while their backs are turned.  On command, have them turn around and get aligned based on your rules for the week as fast as possible.  The goal is to get aligned within five seconds.  If you want to increase the stress, have another coach with another line ready to go for the next rep.
  • No huddle pursuit periods. Pursuit periods can serve a variety of purposes, chief among them are conditioning and assuring all players are running to the football.  However, tailoring pursuit drills to the offense you play that week helps drill more than just those.  Run/pass, rabbit and formation recognition pursuit drills are great for making the conditioning aspects more practical.

 

That idea holds when it comes to no huddle pursuit drills.  This drill can be run for the defensive line or the defense as a whole.  Logistically it is not complicated, but it moves fast.  Place cones at the corner of each endzone and on the 50 yard line on the numbers (four cones total).  Use a scout line or cans and scout skill players as the offense, and start them on the +40 yard line.  The defensive line (or defense) stays on the sideline until the initial whistle blows.  Once that happens, the offense aligns as the line runs onto the field.  Calls are made and the ball is snapped within 15 seconds.  The coach will point to one of the four cones and the line will run to it.  As they pursue to the cone the scout offense runs up ten yards to the +30 (don’t forget the cans if you use them), and aligns in a new formation.  Blow the whistle again, and the line needs to run back to the new line of scrimmage to do it again.  Repeat at the +20 and the +10.

  • Have two scout huddles for Team and Perimeter periods. If it can be managed based on numbers, having multiple scout huddles to work against the defense makes the tempo of team and perimeter periods more representative of the game speed.  Group the plays you script into threes.  As one huddle runs the play, the other is looking at the next scout card.  When the play is done the next huddle is already moving towards the line of scrimmage.

 

Substitutions

Keeping the linemen fresh against a no huddle/tempo team is a must.  However, wholesale changes of the front between plays is a formula for failure.  Develop a concise plan for substitutions that the players know and stick to it.  Use this as a guide:

 

Simplifying Alignments

The most imperative task of defending no huddle and tempo offenses is aligning properly.  Due to the pace of play, keeping alignment rules simple for the defensive line will help immensely.  At times, alignment rules can be messy, so limit the amount of thinking that the line needs to do presnap.  Also, the onus needs to be put on the defensive line to align correctly.  The linebackers and secondary battle the same issue.  Compartmentalize presnap assignments to make sure each position group is policing themselves.

Additional Resources

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